DUCKS

Ducks are some of North Louisiana's cutest residents. This cuteness coupled with the number of our childhood heroes that are ducks: Donald, Daffy, Duckula, hides the fact that ducks are also dangerous. OK, dangerous may be overkill; I just couldn’t resist the alliteration. Wild ducks often behave like other wild animals, they flee (most likely) or attack (mostly when cornered). Nobody wants to get pecked by a rogue duck, so I always try to give these guys their space.

The hidden danger with ducks is that the cutest among them, ducklings, can carry salmonella. That doesn’t mean that if you touch a duckling, you will contract the infection; it just means that if you touch a duckling (which you should never do in the wild), you should wash your hands immediately afterward. To be fair, the bacteria isn’t oozing from the infected animals’ skin, it’s in the feces. But animals aren’t known for their meticulous use of modern sanitation, and just because something is not visible, doesn’t mean residue isn’t there - something to think about next time you set out to grab a wild animal.

North Louisiana is home to a variety of ducks: black-bellied whistling ducks, wood ducks, gadwalls, wigeons, black ducks, mallards, teals, shovelers, pintails, canvasbacks, redheads, ring-necked ducks, scaups, buffleheads, goldeneyes, mergansers, and ruddy ducks. While North Louisiana is home to many ducks year round, more are winter visitors. Like other birds, many species of duck vacation in Louisiana during the winter thanks in part to our lack of blizzards.

Ducks have a variety of markings, behaviors, and habitats. Male ducks, drakes, are brighter and more colorful than female ducks, hens. Drakes in North Louisiana come in a variety of colors, including bright green and red, whereas all the hens are either brown or mottled, although some have bright colors on their wings. For example, mallard and black duck hens have purple and blue stripes on the wings, respectively.

Most of the ducks in North Louisiana are dabblers, although some are divers and a few are sea ducks. What this means is that most ducks in this area hunt for food near the top of the water’s surface. When a duck is dabbling, you’ll see his or her booty poking straight up in the water. If a duck is mooning you, it’s probably hunting for either fish or plants near the surface of the water. Divers will disappear completely underwater. A few ducks fall into both categories. These ducks are called sea ducks, and are primarily dabblers who will dive.

North Louisiana has loads of habitats for the traveling duck, including hardwood swamps, open marshes, and lakes and ponds surrounded by both pine and hardwood forests. These habitats provide cover as well as vegetation and crustaceans and fish for all the security and fine dining a duck could want. Most visitors to North Louisiana eat fish, plants, seeds, mollusks, crustaceans, and insects, or some combination of these foods. Some native year-round residents, have a slightly different diet. Wood ducks also eat fruits and nuts found in the area. Mallards and hooded mergansers eat amphibians, while ruddy ducks eat zooplankton.

Ducks are closely related to geese and populate many of the same areas. Ducks, like geese, generally nest near water, and are often found near lakes or marshes. Many ducks nest in tree cavities, while some nest on the ground. Redhead ducks and canvasbacks build nests that float in the dense vegetation at the edge of marshlands and lakes.

Helpful Links

By far the most useful website for learning about ducks, other than the Cornell All About Birds site is Ducks Unlimited. The site has information on duck species, migration maps, and conservation.

Where to Find North Louisiana Ducks

You can contact your local ducks at pretty much any large waterway in North Louisiana. My suggestions for duck viewing are Black Bayou National Wildlife Refuge, the Poverty Point State Park, and Lincoln Parish Park.